The Main Street of America
In the era of renaissance when Route 66 is viewed as America’s longest theme park, a place where neon and tail fins reign supreme, it is easy to forget that US 66 was an artery of commerce. It was traveled by truck drivers, families on vacation or in search of a new life, gangsters, murderers, hitchhikers, salesman, farmers, and even celebrities. That simple fact was driven home recently. First, with completion of the caption file for a book about the dark side of Route 66 history. Second, through work on a joint project between Kingman Main Street and the Mohave Museum of History & Arts in Kingman, Arizona.
Andy Sansom, the archivist at the museum, has been digging up some most interesting articles as part of our project to document the city’s film and celebrity heritage. He has also been finding some tantalizing tidbits pertaining to proposed Hollywood linked projects and celebrities in Kingman.
Apparently a sequel to The Grapes of Wrath was planned. The film was to be entitled Route 66. This is the second time I have found reference of this movie. The first time was while combing archives in Oklahoma for The Route 66 Encyclopedia. In the mid 1950s Pearl Bailey was in Kingman for a bit while searching for a suitable property that could be developed as a dude ranch. In consideration of the date I have a strong suspicion that she wasn’t given the red carpet treatment. She purchased Murray’s Dude Ranch in Apple Valley, California, a resort complex promoted as “the worlds largest negro dude ranch.”
This week I learned that Joe DiMaggio made a stop at the Gaddis Cafe during a drive to California. I also discovered that actress Veronica Lake was a guest at the Beale Hotel during attendance of a wedding in Kingman. Another little treasure was confirmation of a persistent local legend; Louis L’Amour had a connection to the area.
The prolific author of books and novelettes about the west worked at the Katherine Mines about 30 miles west of Kingman and occasionally stayed with friends that lived in town. And apparently he did a bit of amateur boxing at the Sump, a spacious basement tavern under the Beale Hotel. Interesting stuff to say the very least.
Counted among the more famous celebrity associations is Buster Keaton. He set up headquarters at the Beale Hotel in 1925 while filming Go West at Tap Duncan’s Diamond Bar Ranch north of town. And of course there is the March 1939 celebrity wedding between Clark Gable and Carol Lombard at the Method Episcopal church on the corner of Fifth and Spring Street in Kingman. Legend has it that they spent the first night as husband and wife at the Durlin Hotel, now Oatman Hotel, on Route 66 west of Kingman. All I can add to that legend is that they married in Kingman around 3:00, had a small reception, and drove to Boulder City, Nevada before returning to Los Angeles for an early morning press conference. The famous couple did drive to Kingman on Route 66 and so would have passed through Oatman.
For a more current celebrity sighting consider this, Pamela Anderson did a photo shoot along Route 66 in Kingman for Playboy magazine. And that led to a charge of indecent exposure by the city police department. Jean Claude van Damme was the recipient of a speeding ticket in Kingman, and Adam Sandler was recently spotted at Floyd & Company. I arranged a lunch reception for William Shatner at Rutherford’s 66 Family Diner in Kingman during his Route 66 tour.
The list of celebrity association with Kingman is surprisingly lengthy; Edsel Ford, Louis Chevrolet, Barney Oldfield, Andy Devine, Willem Defoe and Judge Reinhold to name but a few. And it seems that the list just keeps growing.